Ag Instructor Vic Martin: Where are we?

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Great Bend Tribune
Published May 23, 2021

As of May 18, the Drought Monitor report is indicating a significant improvement for soil moisture conditions. None of the states are currently even in moderate drought. The improvement is most significant in Western Kansas with only abnormally dry conditions along the Colorado border and parts of Southwest and South Central Kansas. Stafford County is still mostly abnormally dry. None of the rains after Tuesday are reflected in the report. Most of the southern third of the state is still abnormally dry. The six to ten-day outlook (May 25 to 29) indicates above normal temperatures and slightly above normal precipitation for us with a much greater chance of above-normal precipitation for the eastern portion of the state. The eight to 14-day outlook (May 27 to June 2) indicates normal temperatures and above-normal precipitation. 

As we enter the last week of May, let’s take a look at where we are crop-wise:

  • The annual wheat tour is indicating good potential across the northern part of the state with an estimated yield of almost 60 bushels per acre and that seems to hold for all three days of the tour. The overall estimate is for 365 million bushels. Naturally, a great deal can happen between now and harvest. Looking around the Barton County area, wheat looks good. There are some thin stands but overall the condition appears to be good to excellent.  With good soil moisture and warm but not hot temperatures, the yield potential is there.  Harvest should be a bit later than usual over the last twenty years but that could change if conditions turn hot and dry.  The biggest threat currently is leaf diseases such as leaf and stripe rust for susceptible varieties along with Fusarium head blight. There has been a great deal of aerial applications with fungicides recently as the window for application is now pretty much closed.
  • The alfalfa crop also looks good and most producers were able to cope with early insect damage. The biggest concern now is trying to swath and bale the first cutting with the wet, humid conditions.  As it delays into full bloom and beyond, the crop tends to become stemmier, and will lose some quality. 
  • Some corn is in the ground and has emerged. However, it’s now May 23rd and its time is ticking away, especially for full-season hybrids. The crop really needs to be in the ground now. Some producers may decide and try to switch to an earlier hybrid if seed is available. Producers south of the river on the sandier soils appear to have more corn in the ground and will be able to plant more quickly than those north of the river. Perhaps the biggest concerns are twofold. Especially for dryland corn, the risk of trying to pollinate and develop seed may be pushed into the hotter, drier part of the summer. Secondly, depending on conditions, the harvest may be delayed and as we approach October, grain typically dries more slowly.
  • There are soybeans in the ground and some fields have emerged. There is still more than adequate time for beans to go in the ground and the same holds true for grain sorghum.
  • Overall, while not perfect, conditions are promising for the 2021 wheat harvest and the summer row crops.